Debras, Louis



Impressionism: partaker of the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition

Louis Debras


An artist using various themes and various styles

Debras (Louis) only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874:
Louis-Jules-Achille Debras was one of the oldest partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions. He only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874, showing 4 pictures (catalogue numbers 50 – 53). None of them can be identified, still I made reconstructions to give an accounted impression, see. He showed a study of a farmer, a still-life, a drawing of the Spanish coast and Rembrandt in his studio. At the Salon of 1873 he had exhibited the oil painting of the exhibited drawing, probably he had exhibited the farmer earlier in 1859 and maybe the still-life in 1870. There had been just one (quite negative) review on no.50, blaming him for ‘illustration painting’ and using ‘a heavy and rough paste’. Adler just mentions that Debras and others ‘were recruited before plans for the first exhibition were finalized’ (R89,p18).
See link for an account.
Sources: R2,p120; R90I,p5+29; R87,p236+267; iR1;

Debras exhibited almost yearly at the Salon:
Louis Debras exhibited at the Salon from 1843-1879* and at its successor the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français from 1880-1898*. First he exhibited irregularly in 1843 and 1849; 1859 onwards he exhibited almost yearly. He only didn’t exhibit in 1867 +1868 +1875 +1897 and maybe not in 1896. Didn’t he submit or was he refused? Note that alongside the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition Debras exhibited a portrait at the Salon of 1874. Debras at least sometimes exhibited at regional exhibitions. As far as I know, Debras didn’t exhibit at the Expositions Universelle (R231). After his death in 1899 there was an aunction sale of his works at Hôtel Drouot (=HD1899/06/02).
See link for an account.
Sources: iR1; R231; R87.
Note*: Walther and the Dutch Wikipedia wrongly mention that Debras exhibited at the Salon from 1853-66 (R3;iR5). Bénézit wrongly mentions he stopped exhibiting in 1866 (iR69). Other sources wrongly mention he stopped in 1896 (R9;R88;iR4).

Louis Debras as an artist:
Louis Debras was a pupil of Auguste Dehaussy* in Péronne. Louis Debras himself was the teacher of at least two pupils. At the Salon of 1888 (SdAF-1888-2887) Mll. Hélène Dehaussy is called a pupil of J. Dehaussy and Louis Debras (iR40,bpt6k6557465p). In a lettre to his parents (1847/02/01) Henri Dabot called Auguste Dehaussy and Louis Debras as his teachers, where upon Léon Cogniet replied ‘You couldn’t have better masters.’ (iR40,bpt6k5534660). Louis Debras is called one of ‘les artistes picards’, artists from the Picard region in the North-West of France (iR40,bpt6k4880x; iR4). Debras stayed several times in Madrid, where he exhibited in 1850 + 51 + 56 at the Spanish Salon and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Debras was portrayed by Alfred Dehodencq (1822-82).
Some sources see Debras mainly as a portraitist and a genre painter. This seems a bit limited, because Debras painted a wide range of themes: portraits, figure paintings, history painting, still-lifes, but also many landscapes. These works were done in oil, but also in other techniques, namely pastels. See the overview of his pictures. Some sources claim that Debras painted in a realist style, quite opposite to that of Renoir and Monet. The less than 40 pictures I could find show a variaty of styles, varying from Néo-Classicism to elements of an impressionist painting style.
Sources: iR1; iR4; iR5; R259; R88; R9,p223; R87;iR23; iR69;
Note*: Other sources mention that he was a pupil of Auguste his brother, Jules Dehaussy (1812-91), in Péronne (R9;iR69).

Was Louis Debras an impressionist?
There is not much known about Louis Debras. He only joined the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition and didn’t seem to have had many contacts with the other ‘impressionists’, except with Levert, who owned at least 3 of Debras his works and whose death Debras reported. In that sense he hardly belonged to the ‘impressionist’ art-movement.
If we see Impressionism as a painting style, we must discern between Louis Debras the figure painter and the landscapist. As a figure painter, he rendered his portraits in a more formal pose, rendering many details. He also often depicted historical scenes. All this doesn’t match an impressionist style.
The landscapes known of Louis Debras are mostly done in pastel, though he exhibited also some oil paintings. His brushstroke was rather lively, but he never used juxtaposed brushstrokes. His use of colour was a bit subdued, though he sometimes used slightly unnatural colours. The emphasize lies not on the influence of light (and is hardly noted in the titles), but still it is discernable. The shadows often are quite greyish, but also are mixed with other colours. So, looking at his (pastel) landscapes I would say that Debras partly painted in an impressionist style and partly in a pre-impressionist style.

A biography of Louis Jules Achille Debras:

  • Louis Jules Achille Debras was born in Péronne (Somme district), about 150km north of Paris (iR4;R9;iR24;iR69;iR1;R259;R88).
    The French Wikipedia site mentions Louis Jules Achille Debras was born 1819/10/03, referring to an archive of La Somme (iR4;R88;iR11).
    Note 1: Several sources mention Debras was born 1820/10/02 (iR24;iR69;iR23;R9;iR5;aR4;aR5=iR13;aR1=iR35;iR17)
    Walther mentions (wrongly) he was born in 1834 (R3).
    Note 2: in a report on the French-Prussian war a farmer called ‘Louis Debras’ is mentioned, born in Bapaume, married in Foucaucourt, where he lived in a little farm, where he was 1870/12/13 captured by the Germans and later moved to Péronne (iR40). He surely wasn’t our Louis Debras, but maybe he was a relative, see Revue du Nord 1895/07/01, p177+179 (iR40).
    Note 3: There also was a priest with the same name (1843-1894) (iR40).
  • 1849: Debras lived 26, rue Feydeau, in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris (iR1)
  • 1850-56: Debras stayed a long time / 6 years / several times in Spain and exhibited in San Fernando (1850 / 51 / 56) and at the Salon of Madrid (1850-56) (iR4;R9;iR69;R3;R88)
  • 1859?-66? : Louis Debras lived at the Rue Saint-Quentin, 22, between the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est in Paris.
  • 1869?-72 : Debras lived at Rue Dupetit-Thouars, cité Boufflers, 12 in Paris (iR1;R259). The location is not quite clear. Avenue de Boufflers is not in the neighbourhood of the Rue Dupetit-Thouars. Boufflers also is a small town about 200km north-east of Paris.
  • 1873-98? : Debras lived at the Rue de Cabrol, 18, a bit south of the Rue Saint-Quentin in Paris (iR1;R2,p120)
  • 1882/07/24: Louis Debras, together with Gustave Léopold Levert, reported the death of Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert (aR7)
    It is noted that Debras was 62 years old, lived at Rue de Cabrol, 18, and that he was a friend and painter (aR7).
  • 1883/02/26: 3 copies made by Debras were auctioned at Hôtel Drouot from the posthumes belongings of Léopold Levert (iR40).
  • 1894/12/16: in La Fraternité Louis Debras, as one of the ‘artistes Picards’ is called ‘witty and prudent, but not for his own sake’ (iR40)
  • 1898/12/02: in La Radical, journal politique et littéraire Louis Debras signed a protest against the violation of justice that hit ‘le colonel Picquart’ (iR40)
  • 1899/02/01: Louis Debras died (iR4;iR24;R9;iR69;R2,p506).
    Note: Walther (wrongly?) states that he died in 1917 (R3).
  • 1899/02/04: in La Radical, journal politique et littéraire there was an announcement of the death of Louis Debras, aged 69, who exhibited at the Salon during 30 years with ‘works of art that were often noticed’ (iR40); Le XIXe siècle added ‘Henner, Bonnat, Bougereau, Detaille considered him an artist of great value (iR40), so did Le Rappel (iR40).
  • 1899/06/02+03: posthumous sale at Hôtel Drouot; apart from the 29 titles paintings, there also were auctioned: ‘Framed pastels, quantities of pastels, charcoals, watercolours, studies on canvas and panels, drawings, old and modern engravings, coloured lithographs, etc.’ (iR40,bpt6k1270139s)
  • 2011: in Musée Alfred-Danicourt in Péronne, there has been an exhibition dedicated to forgotten painters and sculptures, including Louis Debras (iR5;iR4). Unfortunately I can’t find a webpage about it.

Most sources on Impressionism don’t mention Louis Debras at all or only very brief. There is no English Wikipedia site about Louis Debras (iR3), Spies omits to mention him. Even Adler makes just one remark on Debras (R89,p18). My main sources are Moffett (1986;R2,p120), Walther (2013;R3,p657), Schurr & Cabanne (2008;R9,p219), Adhémar (1974=R87,p236), Monneret (1978-81=R88I,p167), the Salon database (iR1), Wikipedia (iR4;iR5), Joconde (iR23), RKD (iR24), bnf (iR26), Eclecticlight (iR35), gallica.bnf (iR40)  and Bénézit (iR69). My main sources (for the pictures) from the internet are the Athenaeum (iR2), Wikimedia (iR6), mutualart (iR11), Artnet (iR13=aR5), Christies (iR15), invaluable (iR17), Arcadja (iR18), Askart (iR41), ebay (iR42), Drouot (iR85), lotsearch (iR100), Picclick (iR253), oceansbridge (iR433) and Google images (iR10). And the following musea: Carnavalet (M8;iR195); See link for other general references (=R) and for other references to internet sites (=iR). For other additional references (=aR) see below. See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
For further reading see:
Bénézit (1976,volIII,p408=R75) (iR24)
Busse (1977,p300=R77) (iR24).

Additional references:

  1. Vanished French Impressionists 5 (an article on eclecticlight=iR35)
  2. (Le chemin, l’été, a pastel of Debras auctioned in 2012)
  3. (Ciel d’orage, a pastel of Debras auctioned in 2014)
  4. (drawing + gouache: chemin dans la campagne)
  5. (some auctioned works by Louis Debras)
  6.  (page on Nicolas Henri Carteret, Mayor of Reims from 1845-49 and portrayed by Debras; =iR4)
  7. Pictures and documents send to me by others
  8. (article of Fabrice Roy (2023/03/04) on Debras)
  9. (sale of a pastel of Debras)
  10. (sale (2019/12/03) of two pastels by Debras)
  11. (sale (2018/04/09) of a painting by Debras)
  12. (old photos of destroyed paintings of Debras in le musée municipal Alfred-Danicourt in Péronne, Debras his native town; =iR313)
  13. (info on a painting of Debras made in 1850)


Recommanded citation: “Impressionism: Louis Debras, partaker of the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874; an artist using various themes and various styles. Last modified 2024/05/17.